According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

Monday, June 27, 2011

Gay Marriage in New York


Daniel Kirk in his article further below states the necessity as Christians to support the "Marriage-Equality Act" or Gay Marriage bill, passed in New York State on June 14, 2011. Not because we would condone gay marriage or homosexuality, but because the civil rights of gays and lesbians must be allowed and protected for a whole host of reasons. And though this may mean that by this legislation we inadvertently "free" people to do what we believe is wrong or sinful, we must do so in a socially constructive way granting justice to all segments of American society and not just some segments of our society (as argued in the next article - http://relevancy22.blogspot.com/2011/06/new-york-approves-gay-marriage.html).

If you must, I urge you to read and re-read Kirk's article below until you understand the force of his argument. For it shows the many innuendos that can come out of this bill if it is not passed. It is the only right thing that we can do given the incorporated laws of this land. For America is not a non-religious country but a pluralistic constituency primarily founded in Christian principals but necessarily yielding to other religious and humanitarian expressions of its democratic laws as it must underneath its current enactments of charters and government.

And though I believe Christianity expresses democracy's ideals the best (despite Christian-Americans oft refusals to practice those ideals), the United States Constitution speaks to all citizenry's religious freedoms and not just to those who are Christian. Consequently, as democratized Christians, we must legally accept and actively articulate America's incorporation of all its citizenry's beliefs and practices, regardless of religious or non-religious preference and practice. It is both Constitutional as well as democratic.

However, by the very nature of pluralism, we may see a dilution of basic human rights and freedoms through succeeding legal interpretations as America moves from its originating Christian idealisms to a postmodernistic pan-theism of religious expression. To hope in the superiority of humanistic idealism may be to belatedly discover a grossly failing sub-standard from that of Christianity's ultimate expression vouchsafed through Scripture's witness and testimony. One found in the biblical records of its faith adherents (known as the remnant of God) - both in the highs and the lows of their faith observance. For their errors and failings can be as instructive as their successful faith observance to God's laws. And this is true for us as well - both as individuals and as a democratic society.

And yet the hope of Scripture is that of incorporating all men and women of all nations and cultures, heritages and religious practices, into a heavenly kingdom that is at once pluralistic, trans-national and trans-cultural. Importantly, the Scriptures also note that it is God's Son and divine/human representative Jesus, who is both the center and foundation for this pluralistic postmodern society. Not Buddha, not Mohammad, not humanism, not a religion other than that of Christ. For this is the heart of Christianity's "future" and its millennial hope of destiny.

For if the Kingdom of God is the template for America's Constitutional form of government - as it could be for any nation on earth - than there can be hope. But to the extent that we move away from Christ than I deem our society to eventually fail in the very pluralism that it legally espouses and defends. By this very act of choice must each succeeding American generation determine its understandings and responsibilities as a free society unguardedly open to all walks and manners of living. We cannot force this line of observance but must demonstrate by our societal behaviors and responses how this democratic ideal may be obtained. For if we were to force our religious preferences upon an American society composed of a multitude of ethnicities and lifestyles then we would but create disharmony, dissonance, anarchy and perhaps revolution. Which may or may not succeed in emulating America's earlier idealisms and laws, and could be much the worse for the conflict created.

Advisedly, it would be better to support our current system of government - to lift it up when others decry it, to make it strong for the weak, more just for the ridiculed, wise for the foolish, courageous for the despised, receptive to the downtrodden. It is to each succeeding generation's charter of obligations to better present and expand the ideals of democracy than the previous generation's presentation, while preventing those who would trample it casually or selfishly, ruthlessly or blindly, from its undoing. For opportunity requires leadership --> leadership requires wisdom --> wisdom demands justice --> justice creates vision --> and vision sees opportunity.

skinhead
June 27, 2011


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http://www.jrdkirk.com/2011/06/25/gay-marriage-in-new-york/

by J.R. Daniel Kirk
posted June 25, 2011



New York’s state legislature has approved a gay marriage bill, and governor Andrew Cuomo has signed it into law.

As the states take up this issue one-by-one, I’ll keep working out my thoughts on the issue. I think that this is a complex issue for Christians. Here’s what it comes down to for me:

As long as the state is in the marriage business, Christians should support gay marriage as an embodiment of our calling to love our neighbor as ourselves

First, I understand that there is a strong religious argument for the “definition” of marriage being the joining of one man and one woman. However, the state is not in the business of adhering to or adjudicating religious principles.

Second, to my mind, the best possible scenario is this: (1) the state does not marry anyone or recognize anyone’s marriage; (2) the state performs civil unions for any two persons who wish to join their lives for mutual support; (3) these civil unions are performed by civil servants, not ministers of the churches; and (4) churches can marry before God whomever they deem fit to marry in accordance with their religious convictions.

However, since this is not the case, and since the state has chosen to assign certain rights and privileges to married couples, people with religious convictions have to figure out not one problem, but two.

First, what do we think about homosexuality within the context of our religious community of faith?

But then the second, related but separable question is, What do we think about homosexual marriage within the state in which we find ourselves?

Here’s where, historically, Christians have done poorly: we have failed to realize that our answer to Question 1 does not determine that we attempt to enforce that answer as we take up Question 2.

I want to suggest that even those of us who do not support gay marriage within our faith communities have an obligation to support it in civil law as an expression of our calling to love our neighbor as ourselves.

What if there were a law that schools could only teach evolution and had to teach evolution in Biology class? I don’t mean that public schools had to do this, but all schools and educational programs had to adhere to this. What if we didn’t have the freedom to enact our wrongheaded desire to deny evolution and embrace creationism as an alternative?

If we want the freedom to make our own religious decisions about education and our view of the world and how to best educate our children, we are required to secure for those who disagree with us about every religious decision the freedom to enact their irreligious or non-religious or differing religious understanding of what a fruitful life here on earth looks like.

Similarly, what if our law-makers increasingly enacted provisions of sharia law? Do we want people determining what we can and can’t eat based on religious convictions with which we don’t agree? We’ve grown to anticipate that our representatives in various state legislature will enact laws for justice that do not infringe on our own free practice.

As Christians, we need to learn how to hold our own religious views while seeking liberty and justice for all–not just those who happen to believe as we do. In part, this will mean that we free people to do what we would believe is wrong.


: About J.R. Daniel Kirk:
Professor at Fuller Seminary, resident of San Francisco, consumer of dark chocolate, brewer of dark beer, reader of Flannery O'Connor, watcher of the Coen Brothers, listener of The Mountain Goats.    All Posts by J. R. Daniel Kirk | Share By Email

NT Wright - What Is Hell Like? Does It Even Exist?

Tom Wright has a very direct and succinct way of expressing the most difficult concepts in very elegant and personal terms. I find this with Rob Bell too who likewise would say the same thing as is heard here by Mr. Wright though many would construe Bell to be a universalist denying hell.

However, in truth, Bell is not a universalist but believes in libertarian free will which is just the opposite of universalism. Who preaches the enormity of our choices in this life - whether to proceed to a fuller and richer humanity in submission to the Creator God of grace, salvation and truth, or to proceed to a progressively de-humanizing state of non-humanity by the rejection of God, his love, salvation and truth. This is the nature of hell. Not its many vivid Christian descriptions and imageries.

For as Wright says herewith, hell is more than these things, and worse than these things, whom the NT writers have borne witness to. Far better is it to be part of God's plan of joining earth and heaven than it would be to reject any participation in this plan at all. We want to be part of this celebration, this cosmic party, this reunion and harmonizing of our soul to creation to the very divine itself. Not to stand outside of it mad and alone and willfully refusing joyous participation.

It makes no sense while it makes all the sense in the world. And so, judgement comes by our own "hands" if you well, by our own refusals to be a part of the salvation that is in Jesus, Lord of Heaven and Earth. And it is no party. It is exactly what we want and within it we will make no concessions but to a greater hardness. We will get all the hell we want and this is sad.

So fear then this enslavement, this hardness of heart and blindness to the truth. Haste to come to the living Lord God who daily seeks body and soul, heart and mind, spirit and will, in the greatest of freedoms and most wondrous of joys, life and love. Whatever the pain, the heartache, the guilt, the betrayal, the wrong or sin, repent and come to the Giver of Life, who is very Life himself.

- skinhead




Transcript: " The word hell has had a checkered career in the history of the church. And it wasn't hugely important in the early days. It was important, but not nearly as important as it became in the middle ages. And the in the middle ages, you get this polarization of heaven over here and hell over there, and you have to go to one place or the other eventually. So you have the Sistine Chapel, with that great thing behind the altar. This enormous great judgment seat, with the souls going off into these different directions. Very interestingly, I was sitting in the Sistine chapel just a few weeks ago. I was sitting for a service, and I was sitting next to a Greek Orthodox...who said to me, looking at the pictures of Jesus on one wall. He said, these I can understand. The pictures of Moses on the other wall, he said, those I can understand. Then he pointed at the end wall of judgment, and said, that I cannot understand. That's how you in the West have talked about judgment and heaven and hell. He said, we have never done it that way before, because the bible doesn't do it that way. I thought, whoops. I think hes right actually. And whether you're Catholic or Protestant, that scenario which is etched into the consciousness of Western Christianity really has to be shaken about a bit. Because if heaven and earth are to join together. Its not a matter of leaving earth and going to heaven. Its heaven and earth joined together.

and hell is what happens when human beings say, the God in whose image they were made, we don't want to worship you. We don't want our human life to be shaped by you. We don't want who we are as humans to be transformed by the love of Jesus dying and rising for us. We don't want any of that. We want to stay as we are and do our own thing. And if you do that, what you re saying is, you want to stop being an image bearing human being within this good world that God has made. And you are colluding with your own progressive dehumanization. And that is such a shocking and horrible thing, so that its not surprising that the biblical writers and others have used very vivid and terrifying language about it. But, people have picked that up and said, this is a literal description of reality. Somewhere down there, there is a lake of fire, and its got worms in it and its got serpents and demons and there coming to get you. But I think actually, the reality is more sober and sad than that, which is this progressive shrinking of human life. And that happens during this life, but it seems to be that if someone resolutely says to God, I'm not going to worship you...its not just "I'll not come to church." Its a matter of deep down somewhere, there is a rejection of the good creator God, then that it is a choice humans may make. In other words, I think the human choices in this life really matter. Were not just playing a game of chess, where tomorrow morning God will put the pieces back on the board and say, Ok that was just a game. Now were doing something different. The choices we make here really do matter. There's part of me that would love to be a universalist, and say, it'll be alright. Everyone will get there in the end. I actually...the choices you make in the present are more important than that."

More videos can be found at www.100huntley.com and more of NT Wright's thoughts can be found in his book "Surprised by Hope":



Book Description

For years Christians have been asking, "If you died tonight, do you know where you would go?" It turns out that many believers have been giving the wrong answer. It is not heaven.

Award-winning author N. T. Wright outlines the present confusion about a Christian's future hope and shows how it is deeply intertwined with how we live today. Wright, who is one of today's premier Bible scholars, asserts that Christianity's most distinctive idea is bodily resurrection. He provides a magisterial defense for a literal resurrection of Jesus and shows how this became the cornerstone for the Christian community's hope in the bodily resurrection of all people at the end of the age. Wright then explores our expectation of "new heavens and a new earth," revealing what happens to the dead until then and what will happen with the "second coming" of Jesus. For many, including many Christians, all this will come as a great surprise.

Wright convincingly argues that what we believe about life after death directly affects what we believe about life before death. For if God intends to renew the whole creation—and if this has already begun in Jesus's resurrection—the church cannot stop at "saving souls" but must anticipate the eventual renewal by working for God's kingdom in the wider world, bringing healing and hope in the present life.

Lively and accessible, this book will surprise and excite all who are interested in the meaning of life, not only after death but before it.

Just Who Are the "REAL" Christians?


Guest Post: Are You in the “Real” Christian Camp?
http://rachelheldevans.com/real-christian-camp-laura-ziesel

by Laura Ziesel
posted June 25, 2011

laura-ziesal


Today’s guest post comes to us from Laura Ziesel. Laura is a freelance writer and editor living in Azusa, California with her husband. She blogs on matters of faith, gender, church culture and more at www.lauraziesel.com. She is also a contributing writer for The Redemptive Pursuit, a weekly devotional for women. I think a lot of you will relate to her thoughts here!


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My husband and I have lived in a combined total of 17 unique cities (3 outside of the U.S. or its territories). And we're still quite young. Now that we are adults calling the shots, one of the most important aspects of settling into a new "home" is to find a Christian community. We look for this community in a church, because we believe in the accountability and humility required to be part of a church body. And we look for a church that will both be challenging to us and a place where we can serve.

Exactly a year ago we were driving across the country from Boston to suburban Southern California. Never having lived in California, we were excited about experiencing the newness together. But what we were not excited about was figuring out the landscape of denominations available to us. Why? Because whether or not we want to admit it, we are driven by the belief that there are two main camps of Christians out there: the real Christians and the cultural-only Christians.

Now the complicating factor is that on top of our "Us vs Them" paradigm is the fact that our concept of who the real Christians are has changed over the course of our lives. Unfortunately, American Christianity seems to be divided along our political ideological lines. The extremes of each camp can be characterized (from my perspective) in the following ways:

Conservative Christian: sexually chaste; wears Gap clothing; believes that women can/should not be pastors; denounces homosexuality; equates Christianity with American patriotism; believes that humans are born sinful; submits to the authority of the Bible; esteems Church leaders; takes lots of missions trips to needy places elsewhere.

Liberal Christian: sexually permissive; wears non-branded clothing (well, maybe Birkenstocks); believes that women can/should be pastors; embraces homosexuality; equates Christianity with global citizenship; believes that humans are born good; interprets the Bible casually; believes in organic Church leadership; takes lots of missions trips to needy places just down the block.

Growing up, the real Christians in my mind were conservative Christians. I literally believed that Democrats could not be real Christians. Really. I'm not exaggerating. I would say, about what I have categorized as liberal Christians, "Oh, they're only cultural Christians." But then I went to college and I started to learn about my own culture and how it affected my perspective of the world. And I overcorrected, finding myself saying, about conservative Christians: "Oh, they're only cultural Christians."

Now my husband and I find ourselves in the lovely world of the in between: We don't feel at home in either camp. We believe that both camps err in major and minor ways in regard to orthodoxy and orthopraxy. But, we still feel that we're forced to choose, more or less, between the two camps. And we hate this.

I realized today that my hatred of being torn between these two perceived camps has created a new category of real Christians in my (ever so self-absorbed) mind: Real Christians are those who don't feel at home in either conservative or liberal camps. Now I think everyone is questionable and few have found The Way.

I obviously have a sickness of needing to determine if someone is a friend or an enemy. If only I could focus on the real enemy.

One of my college professors used to say, "The nearer the theological proximity, the greater the vilification." He was right.

Hopefully we won't move for awhile. 'Cause if we do, we're screwed.


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Do you feel like you have to choose between two Christian “camps”? How do you decided? How have your biases changed through the years?


(Be sure to check out Laura’s awesome blog!)



Fresh Water Preservation vs Fracking for Natural Gas in NE America

Sportsmen Alliance for Marcellus Conservation: Fishermen, Hunters Take On Fracking
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/25/sportsmen-alliance-for-marcellus-conservation-fracking_n_884589.html

By KEVIN BEGOS
posted 06/25/11

Sportsmen Alliance For Marcellus Conservation

WHITELEY, Pa. -- Fishermen are gearing up and hunters are taking aim – for Marcellus Shale gas drilling.

A new coalition of outdoors groups is emerging as a potent force in the debate over natural gas drilling. The Sportsmen Alliance for Marcellus Conservation isn't against the process of fracking for gas, but its members want to make sure the rush to cash in on the valuable resource doesn't damage streams, forests, and the various creatures that call those places home.

The movement grew out of grass-roots anger as passionate outdoorsmen found their questions about drilling and wildlife brought few answers from local or state officials.

"Either we didn't get a response or the answer we got didn't seem feasible or acceptable. It didn't seem like the people who were in charge had their pulse on what was actually happening," said Ken Dufalla of Clarksville, Pa.

Energy companies have identified major reserves of natural gas throughout the Marcellus Shale, which underlies much of New York and Pennsylvania, and parts of Maryland, Ohio and West Virginia.

More than 3,300 wells have been drilled across Pennsylvania in just the last few years. The boom has raised concerns about the use of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a drilling technique in which water, sand and a small amount of chemicals are used to open gas-bearing shale formations deep underground.

Already, preliminary water testing by sportsmen is showing consistently high levels of bromides and total dissolved solids in some streams near fracking operations, Dufalla said. Bromide is a salt that reacts with the chlorine disinfectants used by drinking water systems and creates trihalomethanes. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says trihalomethanes can be harmful to people who drink water with elevated levels for many years.

Dufalla stands alongside Whiteley Creek, a little mountain stream in Greene County. But something is wrong. The grass is lush and the woods are green, but the water is cloudy and dead-looking.

"It used to be a nice stream," teeming with minnows, crawfish and other aquatic life, he told The Associated Press. No more, said Dufalla, a former deputy game and fish warden for Pennsylvania.
He's worried that nearby gas drilling has damaged the creek, either from improper discharges of waters used in fracking, or from extensive withdrawals of water. The drilling industry says numerous studies have shown fracking is environmentally safe, but Dufalla and other sportsmen want to be sure.

The goal is to build a water quality database that identifies problem areas and makes that information available to the public. Currently, there's little scientific information about whether or how much fracking water impacts wildlife.

Numbers suggest that many people share Dufalla's concerns, in Pennsylvania and throughout the region. Two years ago his local chapter of the Izaak Walton League (a fishing group) had 19 members. Today there are 111.

More than half a dozen existing outdoors groups are part of the Sportsmen Alliance, and collectively they have more than 60,000 members in the states that overlay the Marcellus. Numbers like that mean there's an established grapevine to reach sportsmen and women, and the ties to national groups bring access to experts and funding.

Members of the Sportsmen Alliance are scheduled to meet in July with Michael Krancer, the new secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, said Katy Dunlap, a spokeswoman for Trout Unlimited, a national fishing group based in Arlington, Va.

"We are making specific requests with regards to Wilderness trout waters in Pennsylvania," Dunlap said, such as additional review of proposed wells near such waters.

Some areas may be too environmentally sensitive for drilling, and the Sportsmen Alliance is building a list of places that need special protection, Dunlap said. "Places that once you destroy, you can't take back," she said.

Whether the drilling industry would accept additional limits in some areas remains to be seen. So many wildlife lovers have expressed concern over drilling that the Sportsmen Alliance has moved beyond relying on volunteers.

Earlier this year Dave Sewak began working full-time across Pennsylvania, giving educational talks and training a network of volunteer water testers. "We support the energy development; we just want to see it done right the first time. I think hunters and fishermen are the original environmentalists," said Sewak, a Windber, Pa. resident. He's paid by Trout Unlimited.

There has been considerable public debate over how and if fracking impacts drinking water supplies, but Dufalla and other sportsmen are worried that even low concentrations of fracking chemicals may affect aquatic invertebrates – the tiny water bugs that grow into mayflies and stoneflies, which are in turn eaten by fish and birds.

The sportsmen worry that a stream without bugs could quickly become a stream without fish, and then a valley with fewer birds, and so on up the food chain.

There are signs that both the drilling industry and sportsmen are trying to find common ground. Patrick Creighton, a spokesman for the Marcellus Shale Coalition, a drilling industry business group, told the AP his group has already met with numerous outdoors groups.

"It's a relationship that we're building," he said. They're also working with local groups on a set of "best management practices."

Some pro-drilling outdoorsmen said that's exactly the area that needs work.

Ed Gaw leased drilling rights to a five-acre tract of his 140-acre farm in Evans City, Pa., to the T.W. Phillips Co. and fracking began in the spring of 2009. The next year the drillers did what they considered to be a basic restoration.

"Their idea of reclaiming a site and mine were kind of night and day," said Gaw, who knew when he signed the lease that the landscape would never look as it had before.

But Gaw didn't just complain. He got to work, investing about $20,000 in a restoration that included planting hundreds of spruce and fruit trees. Now there are more deer on the property than before drilling began, he said.

But no one wanted to talk about restoration in the beginning. Gaw remembers telling the drilling company that a beautiful restoration would be in their long-term interest too, but they didn't see the point. "I'm going [to] take you guys kicking and screaming into this model recovery," he recalls saying.

He was right.

Last year, the Pennsylvania Game Commission sponsored a field day on the issue of reclamation at the Gaw Farm, which is about 30 miles north of Pittsburgh. At the time state officials echoed some of Gaw's concerns.

"Landowners have received a wealth of information across the state on leasing, but little attention has been paid to reclamation and habitat recovery," said Tim Hoppe, Northwest Region Wildlife Diversity Biologist for the Game Commission.

Part of the challenge for outdoorsmen and industry is that there isn't much scientific information on how or if fracking impacts wildlife in the Marcellus Shale region.

University of Pennsylvania biologist Margaret Brittingham is just starting such a project, with support from the Pennsylvania Game Commission. The study will look at how drilling changes the forest habitat, and how it could impact wildlife. But it will be a few years before results are in, and that's just one study.

In the meantime, the sportsmen know the value of keeping their hooks sharp and their powder dry, so to speak.

Trout Unlimited and some of the other sportsmen groups have staff attorneys and a history of organizing and funding successful water quality lawsuits.

Dufalla hopes the volunteer water testing database becomes a tool for negotiating with state officials and the drilling industry.

If the testing shows an ongoing pattern of water quality problems near drilling operations the sportsmen may file lawsuits, he said.

"It's the last thing you want to do," Dufalla said.

But some people in rural communities are past accepting assurances by the industry that fracking doesn't cause environmental problems. Some who don't even hunt or fish have joined the effort to patrol waterways.

Waynesburg resident Chuck Hunnell, 68, said a recent public meeting on drilling was the most radical one he's ever been to. But what he sees in the community he grew up in has turned him into an activist monitoring the drilling industry.

"And now until I breathe my last breath, I'm going to be checking on these people," Hunnell said.